Pro-public health rallies to call for measures to protect people in ‘post-mandate’ Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan residents united under the banner of Take Action Against COVID (TAAC) are taking to the streets this weekend to raise awareness around the continuing devastation, frustration and heartache caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Saturday, March 19, TAAC will be in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature to send a message to Premier Scott Moe and the Government of Saskatchewan, and holding a simultaenous rally in Saskatoon.

“We are a group of parents, workers, students, volunteers and community-minded people who are angered by this government’s attitude towards COVID-19, and have the freedom to speak out loud about it,” said Rob Butz, organizer with TAAC, and parent to a child under five.

Scott Moe has recently declared public health measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic as essentially over in Saskatchewan, insisting that it is time to “learn to live with COVID” and “manage our own risk” as individuals or families, in spite of a pandemic that shows few signs of slowing down.

“That Mr. Moe and his MLAs are hostile to any collective public health measure to manage the pandemic is no surprise. What makes phrases like ‘learn to live with COVID’ and ‘manage your own risk’ so angering is that all the tools we might use to do that, have been yanked away.”

Butz cited the ending of timely COVID-19 reporting that would show if COVID hospitalization and deaths are up or down in the province as an unjustifiable and reckless move.

TAAC has also cited the end of free mass PCR testing, which the group calls a ‘right’ that should be integrated into our regular public healthcare, as a travesty.

“In addition to being more accurate at confirming if people are sick with COVID-19, we think the consensus of medical and public health expertise has been very clear. Mass PCR testing is the only rational means for relaxing or increasing collective public health measures and mandates, because hospitalizition and death from COVID-19 often shows up later.”

“But the government couldn’t make it clearer that they’re not interested in the harm that befalls people from here on in. If they don’t want to measure, they don’t want to know, and this will allow the virus to kill or harm more people than necessary.”

“This isn’t learning to live with COVID at all. The real approach here is more aptly labelled something like, ‘Good luck, Saskatchewan, you’ll need it.’

“It’s a discredited ‘herd immunity’ approach – making everyone get sick – that just isn’t being called that. This is especially concerning because, give or take, 14% of Saskatchewan residents are immunocompromised in some way.”

Referencing the Premier’s oft-cited worry, Butz says, “A large minority of immunocompromised people in our province is a real ‘social division’ we should be worried about.”

At its upcoming Saturday rallies, TAAC is asserting the rights to the testing and reporting to “manage their risk,” more so than the extension of mandates. But TAAC also calls for a ‘social contract’ regarding public health measures, similar to Denmark’s. “In Denmark, the understanding is that mandates can be re-instated rapidly, if easing restrictions does not pan out well for residents.”

Giving a Voice to Those Who Have Been Silenced

“We are speaking out at our rallies, but the constant feedback we get from many who object to the government’s management of COVID is that many don’t have this luxury – because they face workplace ramifications, repercussions in their community, or their voice has been silenced forever as a result of contracting COVID,” says Butz.

TAAC believes this government is overextending their authority and silencing individuals, organizations and institutions who are experiencing the effects of COVID day after day. This overreach can be seen in the directives provided in February by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health to entities they fund, as well as direct leadership appointments by government at the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

“This has resulted in people in the most directly and negatively affected professions — health care workers and teachers — being extremely nervous about speaking out.”

A twist to these rallies is that they have invited people negatively affected by the lifting of public health orders via a form on their social media accounts to write in comments via a form, which they will anonymize and read at their rallies.

COVID Is Not Over

TAAC cites evidence coming in from other parts of the world throughout the pandemic to prepare for what will eventually come our way. As deaths from COVID-19 increase across Europe at an alarming rate, we are experiencing a similar trend in Saskatchewan.

The government’s most recent epi report indicates 44 people in Saskatchewan died from COVID-19 in that reporting period (Feb. 27-March 5). The previous week, 37 people lost their lives to COVID-19 in Saskatchewan. These deaths are not any less devastating or heartbreaking than deaths experienced earlier in the pandemic, but they have been minimized and trivialized by the lack of acknowledgement and action from this government.

“Scott Moe is more interested in trying to keep voters happy instead of doing what’s needed to keep them safe,” said Mr. Butz. “There are hundreds of laws in place right now that help to keep our kids safe. Why doesn’t this government have the will to help keep our kids safe when it comes to COVID?”

Asked if he thought TAAC’s rallies that are asking for tools to protect themselves and families will be successful, Butz says, “that would be the most hopeful result, to get these minimal things the medical community and the majority of us — about 58% of people in Saskatchewan – are asking for,” citing recent polls which still show a high level of concern about COVID in the province.

“But Mr. Moe clearly wants to move on because he would like the public to forget his negligence during the pandemic, and rescue votes for himself and his political party.”

“We’re rallying to say our lives, and the lives of our families and friends, are worth more than your votes. And that we refuse to go along with the gaslighting that the pandemic is over. That’s why rallying in public for public health is so necessary. Even if we don’t change the mind of Scott Moe and his MLAs, we make it harder for everyone to follow his lead and forget.”

TAAC invites frustrated residents to join the protest on Saturday, March 19 at 1 p.m. at the Legislative Building in Regina and at Kiwanis Park near the Vimy Memorial, in Saskatoon.

You can learn more about TAAC at https://www.actionagainstcovid.ca.

For more information or to arrange for an interview, please email:

Rob Butz
Take Action Against COVID
takeactionagainstcovid@gmail.com